Famous Brands International sets stage for Mrs. Fields and TCBY franchisees' success
By Alison Huff


Headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado, Famous Brands International is the parent company of TCBY (The Country’s Best Yogurt) and Mrs. Fields Cookies, two idyllic representations of America’s favorite sweet treats. Debbi Fields opened the first Mrs. Fields store in Palo Alto, California in 1977, and quickly became a name that to this day remains synonymous with freshly baked cookies. TCBY has offered low-fat and healthier alternatives to traditional ice cream desserts with its own signature frozen yogurt treats from the moment it opened its doors in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1981.

Famous Brands International, Mrs. Fields and TCBY
photo from bizjournal.com
In 2000, both brands merged under Famous Brands International’s ownership. With more than 880 franchises currently operating in 16 countries around the world as of this writing, Famous Brands International offers a solid infrastructure and ongoing support to all of its franchisees, ensuring their continued successes.

We recently spoke with Rich Hankins, Area Director of Famous Brands International, to learn more about the franchisee training process for the Mrs. Fields and TCBY brands.

About Franchisees and the Training Program
Franchisees are naturally expected to be enthusiastic about the brand and its products. They should also enjoy working with the public, possess strong leadership and interpersonal skills, and demonstrate a respect for the standards set by Famous Brands International. When all of these things are combined with a franchisee’s desire to work diligently to facilitate their own success, a solid foundation for prosperity is built for the franchisee.

Franchisees have the option to operate a single or dual concept location, and they may operate multiple franchise units that will share employees. Franchise training is typically eight days in length for a single brand, although the process may take an additional day or two for those franchisees who intend to run a dual concept location with both brands operating simultaneously.

At least one person who has signed the franchise agreement is required to attend the training course at Famous Brands University in Broomfield, Colorado; however, franchisees may bring as many people as they wish, including their future managers.

Training involves far more than simply learning to operate a yogurt machine or learning how to bake a good cookie. Franchisees and their chosen attendees will learn about their equipment and the extensive real estate support that’s offered to them. Additionally, all trainees will meet with the Marketing Department to discover the techniques involved in marketing their local stores as well as the national marketing opportunities that are available. Training is a comprehensive program that educates attendees about the entire business model, including store operations, staffing, accounting, product costs, PnL (Profit & Loss), and how to successfully make money with their franchise.

During the training session, franchisees and their attendees will become familiar with their senior management and learn more about Famous Brands International’s parent company, Z Capital Partners, L.L.C., a strong organization that will stand behind them every step of the way.

Famous Brands International Offers Continued Support
After franchisees have received their initial training in Colorado, Famous Brands International sends someone to their location prior to and after a store’s opening to provide continued support to new franchisees. There are also periodic regional meetings designed specifically for marketing, which are held for groups of franchisees in various regional areas throughout the country.

Famous Brands International also provides a Franchise Engagement Team, a group of people in the corporate office who are available to answer any questions a franchisee may have throughout the duration of their franchise ownership.

Training Unknown Employees and the Challenges of Protecting Trade Secrets
Famous Brands International provides online training courses for every franchisee and their employees through its eLearning platform; however, the company is not concerned about employees disclosing the company’s trade secrets. Hankins explained that in this day and age, anyone can mimic another’s concept and that most will actually share the same basic systems of operation.

As Hankins stated, “It’s all about the product. We’ve been there over 35 years. They’re not going to be able to make our yogurt. They’re not going to be able to go and make our product, our raw ingredients.” Famous Brands International is confident that their trade secrets are safe. Franchisees and hourly employees are free to explore and use the online training, which includes videos and quizzes, whenever and however often they need.

Ensuring Quality Control and Brand Consistency
When someone becomes a franchisee for Mrs. Fields or TCBY, how they manage their store(s) and employees is ultimately their own business. While Famous Brands International sends people from their Operations Department to offer feedback on a franchisee’s performance, the company also utilizes mystery shoppers to gain an unbiased view into the day-to-day operations of a franchise.

These mystery shoppers are entirely unknown to the parent company; they visit the franchise and later submit pictures along with their report. This detailed and completely impartial information allows Famous Brands International to ascertain whether a franchise is meeting its performance benchmarks, and they provide thoughtful feedback that helps the company to advise its franchisees of any areas that may require their attention.

It’s clear that through proper training and continuous support, Famous Brands International sets the stage for franchisee success. For more information about both brands and the franchising opportunities of each, visit franchise.tcby.com.

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